How To Use Motivational Incentives: 13 Examples

Motivational Incentives

Client motivation is a hugely integral part of coaching – when it’s lacking, even the most thoughtfully designed programs can have a hard time driving change or growth.

In this article, we’ll explain what motivational incentives are in therapy or coaching, and show you how to use them to build engagement in those you coach.

If your goal is to build others’ motivation effectively, you’ll love our 1 dollar Quenza app trial, for 30 days of unlimited access to Quenza’s client engagement tools. Quenza will enhance your impact as a coach, leader, or therapist, and will give you all you need to guide, support, and motivate others for maximum engagement.

What Are Motivational Incentives?

Motivation is what drives people to perform, grow, and achieve their goals in therapy, coaching, or organizational settings.

It plays a key role in determining a range of factors, including but not limited to:

  • The amount of effort a client invests in their development
  • How long they stick with a program or treatment
  • The likelihood that they will persevere in the face of obstacles, and
  • How actively (or proactively) involved they will be in planning, decision-making, and implementation of therapy or a coaching program.

The idea that human behavior can be motivated with reinforcements, or motivational incentives, is the premise behind the Incentive Theory of Motivation.[1]

How Does It Work?

Incentive Theory argues that we are driven to engage in behavior that leads to specific rewards and similarly disinclined to act in ways that lead to negative outcomes.

A few examples might be:

  • Working overtime to pay for a holiday
  • Earning a promotion for a pay rise, or
  • Buying a new car to improve your social status.

It is often contrasted to intrinsic motivational theories, which explain human behavior in terms of internal drivers (e.g. achievement, growth, and passion).

The Psychological Foundations of Motivational Incentives

Understanding the psychological foundations of motivational incentives can provide deeper insights into why they are effective and how to maximize their impact. Motivational incentives are grounded in behavioral psychology, particularly the principles of reinforcement and conditioning. Positive reinforcement, where desirable behavior is followed by a rewarding stimulus, increases the likelihood of that behavior being repeated.

This principle is central to the use of motivational incentives in therapy and coaching. Additionally, the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play a crucial role. While intrinsic motivation arises from within, driven by personal satisfaction and interest, extrinsic motivation is fueled by external rewards. Effective motivational incentive programs often combine both types, ensuring that the external rewards complement and enhance the individual’s internal drive. Furthermore, the theory of operant conditioning highlights the importance of timing and consistency in delivering incentives. Immediate and consistent rewards are more likely to reinforce desired behaviors.

By understanding these psychological principles, practitioners can design and implement motivational incentives that not only encourage immediate progress but also foster long-term behavior change and personal growth.

Leveraging Technology to Enhance Motivational Incentives

In today’s digital age, leveraging technology can significantly enhance the effectiveness of motivational incentives. Technology offers a myriad of tools and platforms that can streamline the implementation and tracking of incentives. For instance, mobile apps and software solutions can automate the process of rewarding achievements, making it easier for coaches, therapists, and managers to recognize and reinforce positive behaviors promptly.

Digital platforms can also facilitate personalized incentive programs by collecting and analyzing data on individual preferences and performance. This personalization ensures that the incentives are meaningful and motivating for each participant. Moreover, virtual rewards such as badges, certificates, and leaderboards can create a sense of accomplishment and healthy competition among peers. By integrating technology into motivational incentive programs, practitioners can not only increase engagement and motivation but also track progress and outcomes more efficiently. This data-driven approach allows for continuous improvement and adaptation of incentive strategies, ensuring they remain effective and relevant over time.

6 Real-Life Examples of Incentives

Therapists, coaches, and important others in a client’s life can provide strong incentives through positive influence, support, and knowledge of what a client finds desirable.

While motivational incentives are external rewards by definition, they aren’t always tangible or monetary. Therapists, coaches, and important others in a client’s life can provide strong incentives through positive influence, support, and knowledge of what a client finds desirable.

Some real-life examples of motivational incentives include:

  1. Flexible working hours for an employee,
  2. Praise or acknowledgment for significant accomplishments in therapy,
  3. Additional training or development opportunities for students or staff,
  4. Public recognition for key achievements at work,
  5. Interesting, novel, or engaging tasks such as therapy games (experiential rewards), and in many potential settings,
  6. Involvement or autonomy in decision-making.
Quenza Motivational Incentives
Incentives such as acknowledgment or appreciation are an effective way to motivate clients in therapy or coaching. Pictured: Quenza Chat

Motivating Clients, Students & Employees

Not all incentives are created equal, and a few things determine how effective they are at raising engagement levels in a development context.

First, Incentive Theory can also be used to account for individual differences in behavior.

In order to effectively shape or drive an individual’s behavior, coaches and professionals need to use incentives that a client considers desirable.

Working overtime to pay for a holiday abroad is a great example of this – the possibility of an overseas trip might be a strong motivational incentive for an avid traveler, but not for someone with a fear of planes. Similarly, a sociable student might be driven to attend extra group classes while an introverted pupil might not.

For this reason, coaches who want to integrate incentives into a program need to determine the most effective motivational incentives for a particular client, employee, or student by developing a strong working relationship.

To put it plainly, coaching others effectively with incentives requires knowledge of an individual’s unique preferences, interests, and goals.

Second, incentives can vary in their potential to motivate. The more important a particular reward is to a client, student, or employee, the more likely it is that they will be motivated to behave in ways that lead them toward it.

Praising students is another classic example; it may successfully encourage a student to perform well on a (mandatory) test, but not a valuable enough driver for them to attend extra classes.

To put it plainly, coaching others effectively with incentives requires knowledge of an individual’s unique preferences, interests, and goals.

This is one of the reasons a personalized approach to therapy, coaching, or motivational training programs can be far more successful at triggering behavior change and sustaining positive habits than a generic program or course.

7+ Ideas For Coaches and Therapists

Personally relevant incentives can easily be used as part of ongoing therapeutic treatments or coaching programs in a number of ways.

The following practitioner skills include a few clear examples of how counselors and coaches frequently incentivize positive actions and behaviors:

  1. Providing timely, constructive, and specific feedback at regular intervals
  2. Recognizing significant therapeutic or developmental milestones that have already been achieved
  3. Co-planning ‘celebrations for the little wins’
  4. Tracking a client’s progress to bolster motivation with strategic incentives
  5. Creating a customized program with opportunities for challenging, interesting activities
  6. Relating a client’s efforts to their positive therapy or coaching outcomes, and even
  7. Inviting clients to share what motivational incentives they consider desirable with a Pre-Coaching Questionnaire.

Self-Motivation Strategies

Providing the right incentives is a brilliant way to build and maintain client motivation throughout a course, treatment, or program, but what about when you’re not around?

As a helping professional, equipping others with the skills they need to self-motivate is one of the most sustainable ways to help others for the long term.

Consider how you might help your clients develop their own incentivizing capabilities with psychoeducational interventions, tools, or lessons, so that they can apply them in the real world to sustain their positive progress.

Motivating Clients with Quenza: A Guide

Quenza’s tools have been specially designed to help coaches and therapists design activities and programs with engagement in mind.

You design interventions, coaching activities, or exercises so they are uniquely personalized to your client:

Quenza Motivational Incentives
Design engaging, personalized activities that are intrinsically motivating, or use them as experiential rewards. Pictured: Quenza Activity

By uploading videos, multimedia, and other fun elements to activities in your Activity Builder, you can even create games and exercises to use as experiential rewards.

You can keep track of progress, live, to identify when a motivational incentive might be helpful:

Quenza Results Motivation and Incentives
Quenza automatically tracks your clients’ progress, so that you can identify overdue activities and motivate your clients.

With Quenza Chat, you can offer personal, private feedback in real-time to reinforce progress with praise, feedback, or acknowledgment:

Quenza Chat Motivational Incentives for Employees
With Quenza Chat, you can provide timely, personal feedback privately to clients, employees, students, or patients.

Using Quenza’s Pathways Tool, shown below, you can even build motivational incentives into your programs or packages by inserting them as key steps within your pathways.

Quenza Motivational Incentives for Students
Using Quenza’s Pathway Builder, you can schedule games, chats, or fun bonus content as incentives in your programs.

Why not schedule a one-to-one call to recognize your client’s achievements at a significant milestone in their course, therapy, or training program?

7 Motivational Tools Included In Quenza

There are countless ways to motivate your clients, students, or teammates using Quenza, from the way you design activities to the little chats you have along the way.

Here are some of the professional tools that you’ll find to help you:

  1. Quenza’s Activity Builder: Here, you can design your own coaching, therapy, or training content and resources from scratch using drag and drop tools
  2. Your Pathway Tool: For putting your content together into blended learning, coaching, or psychology solutions
  3. The Expansion Library: A rich database of customizable exercises, worksheets, lessons, meditations, and other resources for use in coaching or therapy
  4. Quenza Chat: In-app, live instant messaging that’s perfect for private, secure conversations with individual clients, groups, or teams
  5. A free Client App: Making it easy for your clients to access all of your solutions from any connected device, and where you can also prompt your clients with notifications or reminders
  6. Quenza’s Community: Where you can get help or share ideas, tools, and experiences with your peers, and
  7. Client Profiles: Private overviews of each clients’ chat logs with you, activities, results, notes, and updates.

Whether you’re planning an educational online course, an employee training program, or a professional mental health treatment, Quenza can help you design motivational incentives into your solution from the very start.

Final Thoughts

A truly personalized program of development is the key to using motivational incentives effectively.

If your client isn’t getting the results they’re looking for despite your well-designed solutions, consider what makes them tick. Chances are, you’ll be much better able to help them grow.

We hope you enjoyed this article. To turn your new insights into results, check out our $1, 30-day Quenza trial today.

Quenza will help you share seamless, engaging coaching solutions easily, and will give you everything you need to maximize your clients’ positive growth and coaching gains.


  1. ^ Killeen, P. R. (1981). Incentive theory. In Nebraska symposium on motivation. University of Nebraska Press.

About the author

Catherine specializes in Organizational and Positive Psychology, helping entrepreneurs, clinical psychologists and OD specialists grow their businesses by simplifying their digital journeys.

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